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To www or not to www? That is the question
Time and time again we get asked the age-old question about preferred domains, "Should we use the www or non-www version of our site?" Following the question, there is always this back and forth about why the one is better and the other is not. Most of these discussions are based on personal preference or feelings. However, playing in the data-driven online space, looking at all the facts and making tactical decisions yields better results than simply making a decision based on how something looks at face value. The truth is that depending on the purpose, needs and the technical requirements of your website, sometimes www does trump non-www.
Industry trends might also dictate the use of a preferred domain, e.g. copycatting competitors are often the solution for most companies. This is a dangerous way of making decisions as you not always aware of the reasoning behind the way competitors do things. Having had the opportunity of working with many different brands and always enquiring about the rationale behind decisions, I've learned that often your competitors are not always doing what's best. So what would be the best option for your site? Let's take a closer look at the facts!
The shift to non-www over recent years
When websites were first created for the world wide web all of them used the www prefix to. Excluding this prefix was not even a concern as www was literally defined as the World Wide Web and if you wanted to play in this new space, this was the protocol to use. Over the past couple of years, we saw a shift from using www to using naked domains (excluding the www prefix). Often when enquiring about this change I got the following answers:
- It's shorter for users to type and to remember, thus increases visits to the site.
- New web trend and all the brands are doing it.
- It looks cooler (yes this was an actual answer I received).
Benefits of Using WWW
As a tech-marketer, I'm a firm believer in the www school of thought. Here's why:
- Cookie restrictions when using multiple subdomains: if cookies are set on the main domain (i.e. example.com) it will be applied to all subdomains. Using www prefix creates a single domain and allows cookies to be set to desired subdomains only.
- Easy division of website file structure: this ensures that all files being served to the public will be hosted in the www folder. Separate folders can be created for subdomains used for development and testing i.e. dev.example.com, pre-prod.example.com. Thus separate rules can apply to these folders which can also help with deployment.
- Flexibility with DNS CNAME records for load balancing: For large sites with great amounts of traffic you may have to deploy redundant hosts defined using Cname records. Cname records cannot exist on non-www versions of a site.
- WWW is a natural indicator for a website: helpful when used on business cards and when using rare domain suffixes e.g. example
.travel, example.ninja, etc.
When to use non-www
If you have a small site, simple blog, or just a short-term splash page and don't plan to attract large scales of traffic, or do advanced techy experiments, then using non-www will not be a problem. In cases like these, you are perfectly safe to use your personal preference. If you plan to build your own little online empire then www is your best bet.
You now have all the info you need to make an informed decision as to which domain standard is best for your site! Whether you go www or naked, don't forget to canonicalise the unused version!
If you have any questions with regards to choosing the best domain for your website, contact us here. We are happy to help where we can!